Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: Keepsake

Summary: From the critically acclaimed author of Real Life & Liars and Things We Didn't Say comes a timely and provocative novel that asks: What happens when the things we own become more important than the people we love? 

Trish isn't perfect. She's divorced and raising two kids—so of course her house isn't pristine. But she's got all the important things right and she's convinced herself that she has it all under control. That is, until the day her youngest son gets hurt and Child Protective Services comes calling. It's at that moment when Trish is forced to consider the one thing she's always hoped wasn't true: that she's living out her mother's life as a compulsive hoarder. 

The last person Trish ever wanted to turn to for help is her sister, Mary—meticulous, perfect Mary, whose house is always spotless . . . and who moved away from their mother to live somewhere else, just like Trish's oldest child has. But now, working together to get Trish's disaster of a home into livable shape, two very different sisters are about to uncover more than just piles of junk, as years of secrets, resentments, obsessions, and pain are finally brought into the light. -- William Morrow

I am pretty confident in saying that if Kristina Riggle writes a book, then I'm going to enjoy it. So far I've read and really liked THINGS WE DIDN'T SAY (my review) and REAL LIFE AND LIARS (my review.) And her latest novel KEEPSAKE is no exception -- I thought it was terrific! Ms. Riggle has an extraordinary talent for creating complex characters and I think she explores family dynamics in such an insightful way. She's fast becoming one of my go-to authors!

KEEPSAKE tells the story of two sisters, Trish and Mary, who are both still dealing with the fallout from some their tumultuous childhoods. Their mother was a severe hoarder, and Trish is following in her mother's footsteps. Trish's husband has divorced her because he could no longer deal with her issues and her teenage son has moved out; however, when her young son is injured because her "stuff" falls on him, Trish finally decides that she needs to take charge of her life... and her possessions.

Mary is pretty much the polar opposite from Trish, and the two women don't have much of a relationship. Mary is single (and never has really been in a serious romantic relationship) and she is a serious neat-freak. When Trish's oldest son tells her about the extent of Trish's issues, Mary reluctantly offers to help. Of course, Trish isn't too thrilled about having her older sister who "abandoned" her come to her aid, but she's desperate. As the two women work together to clean up Trish's house, both discover that this process is extremely painful. Not only do they discover things about each other as well as themselves, but they also realize that their mother wasn't the woman that they thought she was.

I absolutely adored KEEPSAKE and it pretty much encompassed everything I've come to know and love about Ms. Riggle's novels. It's a very touching story that deals with some very serious issues, but there is also enough humor woven into the story that makes it an entertaining read. I especially appreciated that KEEPSAKE dealt with the very timely issue of hoarding... which I found absolutely fascinating (I think I need to add a new show to my Tivo season pass!) It's evident to me that Ms. Riggle did a lot of research on this subject matter because I definitely got a handle on the "whys" of the disease. In addition, I think she did an outstanding job of showing the effects that hoarding has on both the hoarder as well as their loved ones.

There were a number of things about KEEPSAKE that stood out to me besides the issue of hoarding. First and foremost, I loved that this novel explored some very interesting family dynamics between two very different women. Ms. Riggle is so good at creating complex family situations and I do love books that deal with dysfunctional families! I also really appreciated how she developed both of these characters and made them so real. There were times when I wanted to hit both women upside the heads (or maybe just knock them together) because they said and did the darnedest things, but you know what? They were actually just like people I know, and I have no doubt that everyone who reads this book will be able to relate to at least one of the characters.

Another really terrific thing about KEEPSAKE is the way the story was told. The chapters alternated between Trish's and Mary's stories, and I thought both voices were very distinct. However, it was how the story eventually unfolded that really impressed me. In addition to the first person narratives, there were also some snippets from their mother's diary that gave insight into the reasons why she became a hoarder. As a reader, I got caught up in all three women's lives and felt as if I was almost part of the story because I was learning things right along with the characters.

And while KEEPSAKE did deal with some very serious (and depressing) issues, the book did end on a hopeful note. As the sisters started to really talk (and listen) to each other, they cleared up some of their misunderstandings from the past... and they became much more "normal" (and by that I guess I mean stable.) Their relationship with each other, of course, improved by the end of the novel, but they also became better at the other relationships in their lives. It was extremely heartwarming!

I think KEEPSAKE would make an excellent book club pick! I mentioned the storyline to a few of my friends and they all mentioned that they had family members (or friends) with hoarding tendencies. As a result, I think a lot of people might relate to the characters. There is a reading guide included in the back of the novel. Some of the themes you might want to discuss include family dynamics, secrets, psychological issues, insecurities, divorce, parent/child relationships, obsessive compulsive disorder, love, forgiveness, and acceptance.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed KEEPSAKE and I highly recommend it to fans of women's fiction. Ms. Riggle has once again written a book with realistic characters that are guaranteed to touch your heart.

Thanks to the publisher for sending a review copy of this novel.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

Hoarding is an interesting problem, although I don't know if I'd want to read a book about it because I'd probably start thinking It's too close to home or something!

Beth F said...

Hoarding is fascinating -- I'm always wondering where the line is between "collecting" and "hoarding." I think I have aunt who might be a mild hoarder.

Serena said...

Hoarding is a problem that I suspect is in my family...not sure if I am, but my husband might think so with all the books I have.

bermudaonion said...

When I delivered Meals on Wheels, we used to deliver to a hoarder and walking through the maze to get to her kitchen was always a challenge - I used to imagine that I'd get buried in all her stuff and never be seen again. This book sounds wonderful! I've only read one of Riggle's books - The Life You've Imagined and thought it was great.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

What a great review! Off to request at the library.

Anonymous said...

I tend to gravitate towards books that deal with some heavier subjects and this one sounds like my kind of read. This is my first look at this book. Thank you for your wonderfully detailed review.

Kaye said...

this sounds like a really good one. I've watched some tv shows about hoarding and I can't figure out this behavior. This book should be fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Oh I loved Riggle's previous book and I'm excited to read this one. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

This sounds wonderful , Ive added it to my TBR - thanks!

Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

Harvee said...

The Far Side of the Sky is fascinating history. Would love to read this one.

Kim@Time2Read said...

This one gas been on my Tbr for awhile. But after reading your review I'm moving it up near the top! Thanks!